The hiring process for local law enforcement agencies is in the spotlight after the recent firing of a Washington County Sheriff's Office deputy.
Dustin K. Maze, 30, of 127 Maze Road, Belpre, who was hired in March was fired last week, five months into his probationary period with the sheriff's office. He was also charged in connection to a breaking and entering more than four years ago.
But local law enforcement agencies maintain that their hiring process is exhaustively thorough.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Deputy Michael Harlow, still on his mandatory one-year probationary period with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, fingerprints Washington County Jail inmate Adrian Henderson Monday at the Washington County Jail.
"I think our hiring process is solid," said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
For both the sheriff's office and the Marietta Police Department, the process involves rigorous interviews, background checks, drug tests, financial tests, neighborhood canvasing and references checks. The Ohio State Highway Patrol did not return calls for comment on their hiring process.
From the initial application to the hire date, the process usually takes several months, said Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite. Both departments also instate a one-year probationary period for new hires. During that period of time, employees can essentially be fired for any legal reason.
Criminal background check.
Financial background check.
Reference checks with supplied references such as previous employers and friends.
Reference checks with non-supplied sources such as previous co-workers and neighbors.
Physical agility test.
Source: Marietta Police Department, Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Waite said approximately 75 percent of people who start the interviewing process do not get hired.
The Marietta Police Department starts its hiring process by advertising an upcoming civil service exam. The exam participants are ranked based on test score and the top few candidates are chosen to begin the interviewing process.
The process begins with the applicant filling out a packet that is about an inch thick, said Waite. Among other things, this packet asks the applicant about any history of drug use or criminal activity.
According to Waite, honesty is the most important aspect of that portion of the hiring process. If the applicant answers that he or she has had any history of criminal activity or drug use, the department takes into consideration the severity as well as how long ago the incident occurred.
"If it happened when they were 18 and now they are in their 30s, we can look at it and say it's probably not an issue," said Waite.
Certain things, such as felony charges, would automatically disqualify a candidate regardless of his or her honesty about it, said Waite.
The police department also conducts a polygraph test and a psychological evaluation performed by the psychology department at Marietta College, said Waite.
"If you are not honest, we are going to find out somewhere along the process," advised Waite.
However, it is the physical agility test that weeds out the most candidates applying for a job with the Marietta Police Department, said Waite.
Patrolman Bob Ellenwood explained that the physical test consists of a bench press, a leg press, sit-ups, and a mile-and-a-half run. The expectations are different based on age and gender.
While the Washington County Sheriff's Office does administer a physical agility tests, it opts not to do psychological or polygraph testing. In some instances they administer a lie detector test in the form of a voice stress analysis but not often, said Mincks.
"They are not reliable. They aren't even admissible in court," Mincks said.
The sheriff's office did use psychological testing in the past, but found that doing well during a psychological evaluation was not necessarily an indicator of success in a position.
"People were passing the psych test and not doing the job well," said Mincks.
Additionally Mincks cited the high costs of such tests as further reason to discontinue their use.
Maze passed every aspect of the process, including getting shining recommendations from three previous police chiefs, according to his personnel file, obtained by the Washington County Sheriff's Office. There was nothing to indicate any potential problems, said Mincks.
In his tenure, Mincks said he has seen very few people who don't make it through the probationary period, he said. But as in any job, there is going to be turnover.
"You just use the amount of resources that you have available and with the amount of money you have available. The bottom line is there is no foolproof hiring system that will guarantee you will get perfect employees," Mincks said.